Interview: Meredith Buchanan & Emily Rivet from Marketing & Publicity at Peachtree Publishers

By Cynthia Leitich Smith

Meredith Buchanan (MB) has been the marketing coordinator at Peachtree Publishers since 2010. She graduated from the University of Georgia in 2008 with degrees in English and photography, and received a Certificate in Publishing from New York University in 2009. At Peachtree, she oversees their participation in conferences, school and library shows, and literature festivals.

Emily Rivet (ER) graduated from Berry College in 2009 with a degree in journalism. She worked for Scholastic Book Fairs and Blooming Twig Books before becoming the Publicity Assistant at Peachtree Publishers in January 2011. At Peachtree, she manages the company blog, Facebook pages and Twitter feed. She also makes sure all the publicity mailings go off without a hitch — if you’ve received a review copy from Peachtree in the past year, chances are Emily packed it!

What inspired you to focus your career on books, especially those for young readers?

MB: I have been a book fiend my whole life–pestering my parents to read to me, and then spending all of my time nose to paper after I learned to read myself. I was a flashlight-under-the-covers, “you’re-grounded-with-no-books!” kind of girl.

MB: All through school though, books were never presented to me as a viable way to making a living. It wasn’t until after college, dismally clutching my fine arts degrees, that I realized I had no clue what I was going to do for a career. I took stock of my interests, and reading was at the very top, so I tried to think of a career where I would have the most access to books. It was either working in publishing or being a librarian, and I just happened to pick publishing (I’m a big fan of librarians though!).

MB: I love working in children’s books–I believe that a good children’s book transcends age. I can pick up any book that I love as a ten-year-old, and enjoy it just as much today.

One of my favorite children’s book authors, Madeleine L’Engle, has a great quote that I think is very apt about young reader’s literature: “You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” I count myself as extremely lucky to work in this field.

ER: I was always a fairly bookish child and I dabbled in creative writing in elementary school (my comic books about a super hero dog were pretty brilliant, if you ask my mother), but it wasn’t until late in college that it finally dawned on me to pursue a career in the book industry.

ER: I think my love of the book itself and the idea of what a book is to a child finally pushed me over the edge. I have a huge collection of children’s books that I’ve kept with no immediate practical purpose in mind – beautiful books, classic books I grew up with, books that make me chuckle (I’m looking at you, Mo Willems), etc – and one day a friend of mine asked me, “Why aren’t you majoring in something to do with literature or education? You sure love this stuff!” It was my “A-ha” moment.

Does being based in Georgia give the house a different point of view or “vibe” than, say, a NYC-based publisher? If so, how?

Meredith Buchanan

MB: I think so. A lot of our authors and illustrators are local, as in Atlantans, or at least Southerners. So we have several that drop in regularly, which is always a treat. In true Southern fashion, lots of them bake something for us for Christmas (which we love).

MB: I don’t think it’s unusual for authors to have a close relationship with their editor in New York. But I do think we are unique in that our authors and illustrators have close ties to all of us; they know who works in marketing, and who orders office supplies, and the names of the staff in the warehouse. I think that we have a much more close-knit community that our authors and illustrators are a part of.

Emily Rivet

ER: Absolutely, however, having never worked for a larger publisher, I can only speculate. I think our size in particular lends itself to lots of collaboration. I don’t work in editorial, but I’ve been part of meetings where we analyze a main character or talk about different ways a story may need to change in the editorial process. I’ve been asked my opinion on cover art, typesetting, etc. and right now as I type out my answers to this questionnaire, I can overhear a meeting going on between our publisher, one of our editors and one of our authors. It sounds like he has an idea for a new series, so they’re fleshing out the story and main characters.

ER: I count myself incredibly lucky to be working in a smaller office where I can soak up these artistic conversations. Authors are always stopping by, signing books, chatting, discussing current or future works and even if your daily job has nothing to do with that side of publishing, chances are you’ll still encounter it and reap the benefits of being near all that creativity!

How do you connect your titles to teachers and librarians?

14 Cows for America Teacher Guide

ER: We have a great collection of teacher lesson plans and classroom discussion guides available for a ton of our titles, which include ties to national curriculum standards. A number of our authors are available for school visits as well, which is always so much fun. I remember thinking as a student how incredibly cool it was to meet a real, live author at school!

ER: We are also very active in library conferences where we get the chance to meet with teachers and librarians about their classroom needs.

ER: With so many constraints on their time and resources, teachers and librarians are always looking for the best way to get books to their students – hopefully we can help them with that!

Are there any particular books you’d like to highlight?

MB: We have a spring title, The Princess and the Packet of Frozen Peas by Tony Wilson, illustrated by Sue deGennaro, that I am just crazy for.

I love fairy tales, and I love a twist on a fairytale even more. The illustrations are a lot of fun, and I love the premise.

 It does make you wonder about the original fairy tale–why did the prince want such a whiner?!

Have your marketing strategies changed during the recent economic downturn? If so, how, and what is your rationale?

ER: We have turned a lot of our focus toward social media marketing, not only for the benefit of a cost-efficient way to reach a lot of our readers, but also for the simple fact that so many people are online and using these social media outlets to connect with fellow readers. It’s a burgeoning market out there, and we’re one of many publishers who have jumped right into the middle of it with our blog, Facebook pages and Twitter feed.

What recommendations do you have for writers and illustrators in the submissions process? What are pitfalls to avoid?

No Bows Teacher Guide

MB: My best recommendation for writers and illustrators is to do your research and be respectful. Before you call with a question, make sure the information you’re looking for isn’t available online. Any house that takes submissions has specific guidelines they want followed, and they are always on their website.

MB: Never, ever show up uninvited to a publisher’s office. And remember, especially in a small house, you never know who might have answered the phone. Don’t be rude to someone that you assume is a receptionist, she very well might be an editor!

There’s been a lot of conversation of late about the current state and future of the picture book. What do you think?

MB: I think everyone in publishing can now see the changes that are coming. I have an e-reader, and even with my great love of the printed word, I believe that in the next ten years we will see a definite shift towards e-books over print.

MB: However, I think picture books will be a holdout. Can you imagine reading aloud to your children, holding up a screen? Well, maybe you can, and I’m sure it has been done, and will be done. But I think people have a real connection with picture books that maybe they don’t have with their trade paperbacks. There is just a certain connection that you get from holding a child in your lap, letting them turn the pages, and examining the artwork together. It’s just not the same on a screen.

Emily’s niece AKA “Miss Biscuit”

ER: I don’t think there will ever be an end to the physical picture book. In my opinion, they are too important to a child’s development – think of the motor skills they develop as they learn to turn a page, their growing attention span as they learn how to sit and get from one end of the physical book to the other (and often back again) and the satisfaction they get from looking at all the books on the shelf and getting to physically pick one out for themselves. It’s priceless!

ER: I have a niece who is 15 months old and her favorite thing to do, already, is pull all of her books out, spread them out and go through them one by one. She loves turning pages and will happily sit and “read” for as long as you’ll let her. She’s a girl after my own heart!

What is the one word you’d like people to think of when they think of Peachtree Publishers?

MB: Quality.

ER: Timeless.

Cynsational Notes

Follow Peachtree Publishers at Facebook and Twitter.

New Voice: Cynthia Y. Levinson on We’ve Got a Job: The  1963 Birmingham Children’s March (Peachtree, 2012) from Cynsations.

Thomas Gonzalez talks about his illustrations for 14 Cows for America, written by Carmen Agra Deedy. The powerful and true story recounts the gift of hope, generosity and compassion one small Kenyan Village made to the American people in the face of tragedy.

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